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Friday, December 1, 2023

COVID-19 vaccinations essential to protect people living with dementia

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Dementia Australia says it supports mandatory vaccinations across the aged care sector and urges people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, and their loved ones, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM says people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment are more vulnerable to contracting severe COVID-19 and once infected, have a high risk of disease-related morbidity and mortality.

“We know that during this pandemic people living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” McCabe says.

Dementia Australia honorary medical advisor, Associate Professor Michael Woodward, says recent research on the impact of the pandemic shows that people living with dementia, especially those in residential aged care, are at risk of worsening dementia and psychiatric symptoms, and severe behavioural disturbances as a result of lockdown measures and social isolation.

“We need high levels of vaccination across the sector and in the community to protect people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, their families and carers,” Woodward says.

“Mandatory vaccination of the aged care workforce will reassure people impacted by dementia and their families that they are supported by people who are vaccinated and significantly less likely to spread the virus.”

Woodwards says residential aged care workers are leading Australia’s overall vaccination rates and these numbers continue to grow.

“We acknowledge our aged care workers for leading the community in being vaccinated,” he says.

Dementia Advocate Bobby Redman, who is living with dementia, says home-care workers often visit the homes of many different clients each week.

“I feel much safer knowing that, as a condition of employment, my carers are now vaccinated and keeping us safe,” he says.

People living with dementia, their families and carers have told Dementia Australia that despite the high levels of vaccination of staff and residents, some residential aged care homes have still not been able to offer appropriate alternatives to essential visits and this has resulted in poor physical and psychological outcomes for residents with dementia.

“During this time, the aged care sector is under increasing stress,” McCabe says.

“For those impacted by dementia, there will be an added layer of anxiety.

“A focus on promoting social engagement to restore mental health and wellbeing as we move beyond lockdown solutions is in everybody’s best interests.

Dementia Australia is here to support the 472,000 Australians living with dementia and the 1.6 million people involved in their care.

“Please get in touch with our National Dementia Helpline as questions and concerns arise, on 1800 100 500 or visit dementia.org.au for webchat, resources and information in other languages,” McCabe says.

An interpreter service is available and the Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays.

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated half a million Australians living with dementia, and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care.

It advocates for positive change and support vital research and aims to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible.

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